28 November, 2003
Temperature: 25*F (heat wave?!)
Location: Garwood Valley
Once again the helicopter flew us across McMurdo Sound into the Dry Valleys. Today we headed for Garwood Valley. The purpose of this trip was to set up a weather station beside one of the "ponds" that exists in this valley.
This valley is even less traveled than the others; very few people have paid any attention to these ponds. The landscape is riddled with dips and hills, like sinkholes. The helicopter circled for a few minutes trying to find level enough ground on which to land. We unloaded all our gear and two suvival bags - just in case the helicopter could not come back to get us, and the helicopter departed.
An appropriate spot for the weather station was selected, and we got to work! The stand for the weather station was set up and leveled first. Then the solar panel was attatched. Some time was spent deciding on the best direction to face the solar panel so it would receive the greatest amount of sunlight. The station will not do much good if it can not receive enough power to run! The data logger box was attatched next. This box houses the input from all the probes. There are eight temperature probes; six to be installed in the pond, two to be installed into the ground. There is also an annometer which will record wind speed, direction, and minimum/maximum wind speeds. In addition to these probes, there is a light sensor which will be placed in the pond to determine the amount of light being received below the water surface.
These ponds are currently frozen, but they will be melting soon. There is considerable algal life in these ponds which has not been studied. This may very well be the first time these ponds have been probed!
The pond was making odd noises as it began to wake up from it's frozen winter slumber. It was gurgling! At first, we were not sure if the noises we heard were coming from the pond or someones hungry belly! After a few serious gurgles, it was clear it was the pond grumbling. Imagine someone swallowing hard and making a gulping sound as they swallow. This is what the pond sounded like; I wondered if it was trying to swallow us!
After the weather station was assembled and tested, we scouted the area for a camp site. Phil and Roman are joining another group next week and they will all be staying here for about four weeks. We wanted to find a nice "home" for them. As we walked around the area, I wondered if this was similar to walking on the moon (only with "normal" gravity!).
The landscape reminded me of images from moon walks. Each step we took lifted a cloud of dust from below our feet. The rocks were loose; as we walked down the numerous slopes, we ended up "skiing" the rocks!
Our time in this valley ended all too soon as we heard the thumping of the returning helicopter. It landed in a fury of wind and dust. We loaded all our supplies and headed back to McMurdo. I reflected on how fortunate I am to have walked in a valley that so few have touched; still having the time of my life!
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